The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the best defenses of the past three seasons. All-Pro caliber players like Geno Atkins and Leon Hall headline a group of elite players. Speaking of names, the most popular two being mentioned just now missed half of last season with an ACL tear and a torn Achilles, respectively. On top of talent, that fact alone speaks to the depth of both the line and the secondary, although it may not seem to be consistent to all of us.
The NFL.com analysts recently went around a roundtable between the writers asking what teams could be poised to dethrone the Seattle Seahawks - not necessarily as Super Bowl Champions, but by garnering top defensive honors in 2014.
The Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Arizona Cardinals, and San Francisco 49ers all received support for the feat. Among the writers, it was Dave Dameshek that made a strong case for Cincinnati's potential to become the best defensive unit this season.
"For all the talent in Seattle's defense, its greatest attribute last season was its remarkable depth. The same is true of the Bengals' unit, which ranked third in 2013 despite losing Geno Atkins - its best defender and the game's best interior defensive lineman - to a torn ACL in Week 9. That's because even without Atkins, the line is young, talented and deep. At the second level, third-year pro Vontaze Burfict is so good and rangy at linebacker, he's like Luke Kuechly with a nastier disposition. In the secondary, rookie corner Darqueze Dennard - who already has head coach Lewis swooning - joins a strong mix of youthful athleticism and high-pedigree experience."
That sounds like a pretty fair assessment of where the Bengals stand, as Dameshek speaks of both the overall talent of the team, and also touches on the depth that the Bengals hope to carry over from last season's very apparent "next man up" approach to the injury bug.
It's just one writer's opinion, but the points have merit. Bengals fans would certainly be glad to see that prediction come true this season.